HomeWorldDW: How likely is a Russian nuclear strike?

DW: How likely is a Russian nuclear strike?


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Retaining over 6,300 nuclear warheads, Russia has the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet. Of the NATO partners, the US alone has 5,800 nuclear warheads, France 300 and the UK 215.

It was last Tuesday, when Mr Russian President Putin stated in his speech the following: “I want to remind those who make such statements against Russia that our country has means of destruction, in some cases even more advanced than those of NATO countries. If our territorial integrity is threatened, of course we will protect Russia and our people with all the means at our disposal.”. Vladimir Putin’s announcements this week they froze the world. Corresponding statements by the former Russian president and vice president of the Security Council of Russia followed Dmitry Medvedev.

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Putin accuses the West of nuclear blackmail and leaves no doubt about his resolve. “It’s not a bluff” he said himself. THE use of nuclear weapons is not a new threat. It’s just that this time it comes with her mobilization of approximately 300,000 reservists of the Russian army with partial conscription.

What experts and former top officials say

“Since the beginning of the war we have repeatedly heard Putin imply such threats,” told DW the Wolfgang Richter, retired German colonel and current security expert at the Berlin Foundation for Science and Policy. From the side of Rose Gottemeler, former Deputy Secretary General of NATO in an interview with the BBC did not rule out that Russia can use nuclear weapons. “I fear that the Russians may retaliate in an unpredictable manner,” he said, “even with the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

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Wolfgang Richter, however, does not see the situation as dramatic, analyzing the Russian doctrine of resorting to the use of nuclear weapons, which provides that: “first, Russia should have itself been attacked with nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. Second, the existence and survival of the Russian state should be at stake.” According to Richter, these are two arguments that have no basis in international law.

Russia, the largest nuclear power

Keeping above 6,300 nuclear warheadsthe Russia it has the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet. Of the NATO partners, only USA possess 5,800 nuclear warheadsthe France 300 and the Great Britain 215. The fact is, however, that there are no more precise figures for numbers, because the nuclear programs of the respective countries remain secret.

For its part, Germany is participating in the prevention of nuclear holocaust with Tornado fighter jets of the German Air Force, which are stationed in Büchel, Rhineland-Palatinate. In an emergency, German Luftwaffe pilots could drop American nuclear warheads from these planes, something they practice once a year. In addition to Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy also participate in the NATO nuclear deterrence program. The decision to use American nuclear bombs located in these countries would be made by the American president.

What are the chances of a nuclear strike?

From 2014 and on annexation of Crimea in Russia, Vladimir Putin repeatedly invokes his country’s nuclear arsenal. Relatively more likely would be the use of so-called tactical nuclear weapons, with a relatively low explosive range – about one fiftieth of the nuclear bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. However, B. Richter doubts whether such a thing can really happen.

“Russia would become the pariah of the world, it would be left all alone. Putin would lose all his allies, including China.” he notes himself, assessing the scenario of a nuclear war as unlikely. A few days ago, however, the president of the USA Joe Biden sent a clear message to Vladimir Putin via the CBS network: “Don’t do it! Such a move would change the face of warfare like nothing else since World War II.”

DW / Volker Witting, Frank Hoffmann / Editor: Dimitra Kyranoudis

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